‘Donald’ Yu was born in Hong Kong in 1980, where he received
his musical training. Yu started his training as a concert pianist
at the age of 10. At age 16, he made his debut as a soloist
with Pan Asia Symphony Orchestra under the baton of his mentor
Dr. Yip Wai Hong, which whom he also studied. In 2004, he earned
his Bachelor's Degree of Music in Piano Performance from Baylor
University where he studied with Krassimira Jordan. Yu also
studied advanced composition with Scott McAllister and orchestral
conducting with Stephen Heyde. In the summer of 2000, he received
training in piano performance at Vienna's Bösendorfer International
Piano Academy in Austria.
Yu is prolific composer with more than eighty pieces in various
genres including piano works, chamber music, art songs, choral
music, orchestral works, concertos and electronic music. Yu's
earlier works can be classified as ‘neo-classical’ and ‘neo-romantic’
in style. However, he began to explore serialism, abstract experimentation
and other sorts of eclectic approaches in his recent works.
Hu’s major works include: Concerto for Horn and Orchestra
(2001), Symphonic Poem: Dreamscapes (2002),
Black Hole (2002); for piano: Sonata No. 1-5 (
2000-2004), Uncertainty (2004). The chamber music and
art songs include: Nocturne for Flute and Piano (2005),
Illusion for Oboe and Piano (2003), Dark Rhapsody
for Cello and Piano (2003) and the Five Japanese Lyrics
for Soprano and Piano (2001).
Yu teaches in Hong Kong. Since 2005, he has been the artistic
director of the Hong Kong Integrated Arts Association. Yu is
the composer-in-residence of the Crossover and the Hong Kong
Cosmopolitan Youth Orchestra. He continues to study composition
with Dr. Christopher Keyes and choral conducting with Mr. Andrew
Cheung. Moreover, he has received commissions from various prominent
performers and organisations.
opening score on this release is Hell and Heaven for
piano which provides an agitated sound world that represents
the elements of Hell and Heaven fighting for dominance. The
heavy mood builds to an explosive climax at point 02.00 where
there is a welcome section of relative calm. The piano work
the Fantasy on ‘The Lady of Shallot’ which was
inspired by the poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson is presented in
three connected movements. The final section where the Lady’s
life starts to fade is splendidly written.
Sonata No. 4, ‘Chaos’ for piano represents the
disorder and unpredictability of the universe. In the piano
work Uncertainty, the repeated rhythmic patterns convey
a feeling of certainty rather than the uncertainty that the
title suggests. The Piano Sonata No. 1, ‘Grand Concert
Fantasy’ marks a change of mood utilising neo-classical
and neo-romantic harmonies that parody the worlds of Schubert
and Schumann. In the Five Japanese Lyrics for soprano
and piano the unsteady soloist Kristi Foster is unflatteringly
caught and sounds as if she is stood in the recording studio
engaging short Sonnet No. 104 for mezzo-soprano and piano
is far better recorded than the earlier soprano songs. Xia Heng
the mezzo is a rich and expressive soloist. For oboe and piano
Illusion was inspired by quantum physics. The work is
more accessible than the title may suggest and the oboist Euridice
M. Alvarez Izcoa displays dazzling virtuosity with a pleasing
tone. The mood of the score to Dark Rhapsody for cello
and piano is dark and foreboding. Cellist Jeremy Shih gives
a fine performance; which I guess he didn’t find too taxing.
the Five Miniatures for Piano each of the five sections
represents a different state: energy, anger, calm and serenity,
agitation and liveliness. The final work on the release is the
Sonata No. 2, ‘Humoresque’ for piano. This
mainly lyrical, neo-classical score contains some fine moments.
The composer plays
the piano on all the scores presented on this disc and performs
with authority and precision.
The sound quality on this Zimbel Records release is serviceable, with the exception of the disappointingly
recorded soprano on the Five
Japanese Lyrics. The presentation is poor. There are no texts
provided for the songs, the Five
Japanese Lyrics are
not indexed separately and it is the only work without any background
notes. Furthermore, the recording venue and the
dates have also been omitted.
These are interesting short scores that are reasonably
appealing and always accessible. There are some enjoyable moments
but not enough to tempt me to return.